Add Mohammed el-Baradei to the list of those welcoming Obama's statements that he'd talk to Iran.
"If there is a direct dialogue between the United States and Iran, I think Iran will be more forthcoming with the agency," IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said.
"(A) political opening will also convince Iran to work with us to solve remaining technical issues," he told a news conference in Prague after meeting Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
"That political component of the (Iran) issue requires in my view a direct dialogue with Iran and that's why I am very encouraged by President-elect Obama's statement that he is ready to engage Iran in a direct dialogue without preconditions.
El-Baradei, who was one of those that said plainly that Iraq had no extant WMD and was thanked for being right by a Bush administration push to replace him, also underlined that, to date, there is no proof Iran is seeking nuclear weapons either.
We are able to verify all their declared activities, we are able to verify their enrichment programme, which is a good thing. But we are still not able to move forward on clarifying some of the outstanding issues related to alleged studies that could have some linkage to a possible military dimension."
Iran says its nuclear plans are to make electricity so it can export more oil and gas.
"There is a lot of concern about Iran, not today but about Iran in future... whether once they develop the technology, what are they going to use it for, whether they will go for nuclear weapons," said ElBaradei.
"That is the concern shared by the Security Council." [Emphaisis Mine - C]
There's a lot in that snippet to unpack.
First of all, there's the unequivocal statement that everything the IAEA has so far checked has come up clean - a civilian program only and one that cannot now be re-directed to military uses without IAEA foreknowledge...
That warning period would be at least six months and possibly a whole year long, so why is anyone still talking about keeping military options on the table? Saber rattling is counter-productive in such a circumstance - there's plenty of time to put talk of such options back in process if Iran ever makes a move to re-enrich to bomb-grade but for now there is no such program.
Secondly - the "alleged" studies el-Baradei refers to are all from 2003 and earlier, from a time when US intelligence says Iran did have a nuke program, in a very early stage, which has since been shut down. Notice all those conditionals?
That's because, as Gareth Porter notes in his latest investigative report, the IAEA has serious doubts about US-provided evidence for how extensive those studies were even then. All the information the US has provided the nuke watchdog has come from a laptop provided by the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, a Marxist-Islamist terrorist organistation advocating regime change in Iran in its own favor, which has provided a long list of faulty intelligence claims about Iran, but which has even so become beloved by neocon advocates that "real men go to Tehran". All of the information on the laptop is open to question about its authenticity. Gareth notes that the "next IAEA report, due out in mid-November, will include the first response by the Agency to a confidential 117-page Iranian critique of the laptop documents, according to the Vienna-based source."
Lastly, El-Baradei makes it clear that the IAEA's only worry now is about what Iran might do in future to turn its current entirely civilian program into one with a military dimension. That's in marked contrast to Bush administration officials, Barrack Obama and other Western political figures, who have continued to talk as if Iran has an extant nuclear weapons program. El-Baradei is reminding the UNSC that the evidence contradicts that rhetoric, something Russia has publicly acknowledged already and has refused to bow to US pressure upon. Even now, the Bush administration is trying to push through a third set of UNSC sanctions before Obama comes into office (and before the IAEA report on the "Laptop of Death"'s credibility) and a new meeting is scheduled in Paris for Thursday.
The neocons may be still pushing their narrative of the need to attack an imminently nuclear Iran, in rampant denial of the collapse of their plans for a New American Century. But the truth is that other US and Western policymakers' hostility to Iran, including Obama's rhetoric, have their roots in the decades old US Embassy fiasco and the campaign of demonization that following it rather than in any actual evidence about Iran's current nuclear plans. While that means that, sans a nuclear "smoking gun" there's little chance now of an attack, the race to sanction Iran for what it isn't doing (while rewarding Pakistan, India and Israel for what they are) will continue and will continue with the threat of war ever present.
"This may be the best example in recent times of highly coordinated threat of force against a country to bring about diplomatic solution...I'm not sure," said Ret. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar, the former head of CENTCOM, the military command responsible for the whole of the Middle East. "[...F]or people that think this is serious, I would put it in the utter folly department."
The best chance of heading that folly off is Obama's dialogue, as it can open up what Iran and the US share, e.g. on Afghanistan.
"What [the U.S.] can do and can't do with Iran is...pretty much a mystery because we have not been prepared to explore with them what the possibilities are," said [Brent Scowcroft, former Republican NSA]. "[...T]alking in itself is not necessarily a concession."
Crossposted from Newshoggers